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Nick Berg
Born Nicholas Evan Berg
(1978-04-02)April 2, 1978
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Died May 7, 2004(2004-05-07) (aged 26)
Cause of death Decapitation
Place of burial Montefiore Cemetery, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
Occupation Freelance radio-tower repairman[1]
Religion Judaism[2]
Parents Michael Berg, Susan Berg

Nicholas Evan Berg (April 2, 1978 – May 7, 2004) was an American freelance radio-tower repairman who went to Iraq after the United States' invasion of Iraq. He was abducted and beheaded according to a video released in May 2004 by Islamist militants in response to the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse involving the United States Army and Iraqi prisoners. The CIA claimed Berg was personally murdered by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.[3] The decapitation video was released on the internet, reportedly from London to a Malaysian-hosted homepage by the Islamist organization Muntada al-Ansar.[4]

Early life and education

Berg grew up in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.[2] He was referred to as a "religious Jew."[2]

Berg graduated from Henderson High School in West Chester in 1996.[5][6] In 1996, he was a student at Cornell University[7] but later dropped out.[8]

He took classes at Drexel University in 1998,[9] and in 1999, Berg attended summer sessions on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.[7] At some point, Berg took a class at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.[10] He never earned a college degree.[7]

In 2002, with family members, Berg created Prometheus Methods Tower Service.[8] He inspected and rebuilt communication antennas, and had previously visited Kenya and Uganda on similar projects. Berg set up a subsidiary of his company, Prometheus Tower Services, Inc., in Kenya.[11][when?]

Travels and detention

Berg first arrived in Iraq on 21 December 2003, and made arrangements to secure contract work for his company. He also went to the northern city of Mosul, visiting an Iraqi man whose brother had been married to Berg's late aunt. Leaving on 1 February 2004, he returned to Iraq on 14 March 2004, only to find that the work he was promised was unavailable. Throughout his time in Iraq, he maintained frequent contact with his family in the United States by telephone and e-mail.

Berg had intended to return to the United States on 30 March 2004, but he was detained in Mosul on March 24.[12] His family claims that he was turned over to U.S. officials and held for 13 days[13][14] without access to legal counsel. FBI agents visited his parents to confirm his identity on March 31, 2004, but he was not immediately released[citation needed]. After his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia on April 5, 2004, claiming that he was being held illegally, he was released from custody. He said that he had not been mistreated during his confinement. The U.S. maintains that at no time was Berg in coalition custody, but rather that he was held by Iraqi forces. The Mosul police deny they ever arrested Berg, and Berg's family has turned over an email from the U.S. consul stating "I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul."[15] According to the Associated Press, Berg was released from custody on April 6, 2004 and advised by U.S. officials to take a flight out of Iraq, with their assistance. Berg is said to have refused this offer and traveled to Baghdad, where he stayed at the Al-Fanar Hotel. His family last heard from him on April 9, 2004. Berg had his last contact with U.S. officials on April 10, 2004 and did not return again to his hotel after that date. He was interviewed for filmmaker Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11.[16] Moore chose not to use the footage of his interview with Berg, but instead shared it with Berg's family following his death.


Berg's family became concerned after not hearing from him for several days. Although a U.S. State Department investigator looked into Berg's disappearance, official government inquiries produced no leads. Berg's family, frustrated with what they say was a lack of action by the U.S. government, also hired a private investigator and contacted both their Congressional delegation and the Red Cross in search of information.



Nick Berg seated, with five men standing over him. The man directly behind him, said to be Zarqawi, is the one who beheaded Berg.

Berg's body was found decapitated on May 8, 2004, on a Baghdad overpass by a U.S. military patrol. Berg's family was informed of his death two days later. Military sources stated publicly at the time that Berg's body showed "signs of trauma", but did not disclose that he had been decapitated.

On May 11, 2004, the website of the militant jihadist group Muntada al-Ansar[17] posted a video with the opening title of "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughters an American" (Arabic language: ابو مصعب الزرقاوي يذبح امريكي‎), which shows Berg being decapitated. The video is about five and a half minutes long.

Berg is seen in the video wearing an orange jumpsuit, similar to ones worn by prisoners in U.S. custody. He identifies himself: "My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in West Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia."

The video shows Berg surrounded by five men wearing ski masks and shemaghs. A lengthy statement is read aloud. The masked men then converge on Berg. Two of them hold him down, while one decapitates him with a knife – the decapitator was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.[18] A scream can be heard as men shout "Allahu Akbar". After the head is severed, one of the men displays the head to the camera, then lays it down on the decapitated body.

During the video, the man reading the statement threatens further deaths: "We tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way." The video further threatens U.S. President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Encounter with Zacarias Moussaoui

On May 14, 2004, it was revealed that Nick Berg had been investigated during the U.S. government's investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui. Berg's email address had been used by Moussaoui prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks. According to Berg's father, Nick Berg had a chance encounter with an acquaintance of Moussaoui on a bus in Norman, Oklahoma. This person had asked to borrow Berg's laptop computer to send an email. Berg gave the details of his own email account and password, which were later used by Moussaoui. The FBI found that Berg had no direct terrorism connections or direct link with Moussaoui.[19]

Arrests and confessions

On May 14, 2004, citing "Iraq sources", Sky News reported that four people had been arrested for the murder.[citation needed] Two were later released.[20] Alternatively, on July 5, 2004, Sky News reported that four men were arrested in connection with the Nick Berg decapitation.[21]

On August 5, 2004, Le Nouvel Observateur published a feature story by Sara Daniel[22] detailing her meeting with one Abu Rashid, a leader of the mujahadeen council in Fallujah. He claims that he killed Nick Berg, Kim Sun-il and Iraqis who collaborated with U.S. forces. He also states that they attempted a prisoner exchange with Berg and were rebuffed by the U.S. officials.

See also

  • Beheading in Islamism
  • Steven Joel Sotloff
  • Eugene Armstrong
  • Alan Henning
  • Jack Hensley
  • James Foley (photojournalist)
  • John Dawson Dewhirst
  • Kenneth Bigley
  • Kim Sun-il
  • Margaret Hassan
  • Seif Adnan Kanaan
  • Shosei Koda
  • Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.
  • Piotr Stańczak


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 This article was reported by James Dao, Richard Lezin Jones, Christine Hauser and Eric Lichtblau and was written by Mr. Dao. (2004-05-26). "VISIONS AND SUSPICIONS - THE ENTREPRENEUR - Tracing a Civilian's Odd Path To His Gruesome Fate in Iraq". Diwaniya (Iraq); Iraq; Mosul (Iraq): Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  3. "World | Middle East | 'Zarqawi' beheaded US man in Iraq". BBC News. May 13, 2004. Retrieved March 18, 2010. 
  4. "". 29 May 2004. Retrieved March 18, 2010. 
  5. "Beheading Victim 'Loved Adventure and Risk'". Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  6. "Friends, Kin Mourn Berg". Fox News. 2004-05-12. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "The Daily Pennsylvanian :: Phila. man beheaded in Iraq linked to Penn, Drexel". Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ - THE FAMILY - From Strange Encounter With Iraqi Police to Fatal Capture by Islamic Terrorists". Iraq; Mosul (Iraq): 2004-05-12. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  9. "Hundreds mourn Nicholas Berg They valued his adventure, humor, drive -". 2004-05-14. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  10. "Arrests in abduction of American worker - World news - Mideast/N. Africa - Conflict in Iraq". NBC News. 2004-05-21. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  11. [1] Archived June 14, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "". 29 May 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  13. "Friend: Berg said he was in U.S. custody - May 13, 2004". 2004-05-13. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  14. "Middle East | 'Zarqawi' beheaded US man in Iraq". BBC News. 2004-05-13. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  15. E-mail from consul confirms Berg was in U.S. military hands at the Wayback Machine (archived February 6, 2005), WKRN
  16. Moore interviewed Berg for "Fahrenheit", Salon (magazine), May 27, 2004
  17. [2] - website where decapitation video was first posted, now offline. See Archived index at the Wayback Machine.
  18. Die Welt , 20 November 2014.
  19. Berg's encounter with 'terrorist' revealed, CNN, May 14, 2004
  20. "Four Arrested In Nick Berg Beheading, Two Later Released - News, Weather & Sports". 2004-05-21. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  21. "Iraq: Four Arrested Over Berg Killing". 2004-07-05. Retrieved 2015-03-04. 
  22. "Reportages:". Retrieved March 18, 2010. 

Further reading

  • Hayes, Jonathan. "Second Opinion." New York Magazine. "A New York City medical examiner watches the video of Nick Berg’s beheading and wishes he’d looked away."

External links

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